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I think I’ve written something in this exact vein before,
but whatever AMERICAN HORROR STORY is (and it’s plenty), it’s never subtle. “The
Coat Hanger”—an episode that would put the titular object to the exact use its
name causes folks to cringe—began with a returning Dylan McDylan expressing
his inner struggle as the modern day Bloody Face to an unsuited therapist. Hint
after hint is laid out, until in the clearest terms possible this rat-tailed
Johnny offers, “I’m the son of Bloody Face.” In case you were still befuddled, ASYLUM
returned from its title sequence to tell Lana Winters there’s a psychopathic
baby in her womb.
Now, a show such as AMERICAN HORROR STORY, which clearly
delights in twist after twist could be shooting for a fake out here; after all,
we learned Ian McShane is alive(!). But this possibility doesn’t change the
fact if you happened to be thinking it, Ryan Murphy & co. wanted to be
damned sure you were.
Speaking of fake outs, or more appropriately, foils, almost
every major character’s episode path was detoured, twisted or just plain ruined
this week. Sister Jude stabbed Santa/Lee Emerson in the neck, but he’s still
kicking and working alongside Monsignor (who got some stuff to do!), Sister
Mary and Dr. Arden to keep her in Briarcliff as a patient. Lana, resilient as
hell, takes the upper hand this baby gives over Bloody Face/Thredson and
succeeds in taping a confession with Kit. Unfortunately, her DIY abortion is
unsuccessful (foiled by fate!) and her knife is taken away (foiled by
orderly!), and Kit is intercepted by Dr. Arden after hiding the recording.
Finally, dopey, cowardly and outwardly gross Monsignor
Howard is overcome with ambition and looks to save the soul of poor Lee
Emerson. A prayer and a baptism later,
and he’s delighted...until Lee goes for the gold and crucifies the holy man. It’s
a relief of the highest order to see Ian McShane back in action in “The Coat
Hanger.” His role in “Unholy Night” was fun, yet inconsequential. He’s now
really playing into the proceedings and making his own mischief, while McShane
clearly delights in it all. AMERICAN HORROR STORY is glorious in its ability to
bring screen greats like Lange and McShane together in such ludicrous
scenarios. It really tips the scale away from eye-rolling, which the series
would otherwise deal in greatly.
I’ve previously lamented the lack of activity in which
Monsignor Howard got to partake, but with the return of some societal parallels,
he becomes a bit clearer. In “The Coat Hanger,” his ambition of popedom and
grandeur is revealed, in turn revealing the character of a man like most who want
titles. He’s not as aggressively ruthless as he is sniveling, and willing to go
along with the misdeeds of those around if it pushes him forward. In Lee’s
acting, he sees an easy case of redemption, and another accomplishment to add
to his resume. Unfortunately, his expectations are quickly, painfully and
More hot-button nods come in the form of Thredson, an
obvious disgusting human being berating Lana for her wanting to abort the baby.
It’s obviously dealing in extremity, equating the pro-life with someone
completely insane and murderous in his own right (I believe pointing out
hypocrisy was the aim here), but in its own way works in attacking the frankly
insane view that a woman, especially one in a state such as Lana’s (raped,
physically assaulted) should have her choice denied, refuted and insulted.
Finally, it took someone as naturally inquisitive as Dr.
Arden to encounter them, but the aliens are becoming more prominent. Arden
figures out that Kit is of importance to these studious creatures and brings
the boy to near-death in order to summon them. What he finds, is Grace, alive,
well and pregnant. Baby season at Briarcliff is underway and everyone from
extraterrestrials to skin-wearing killers have a hand in the pot.
“The Coat Hanger” ends with Lana—once again, ever
resilient—and newly incarcerated Sister Jude making strides toward amends and
partnership in the struggle against the powers that be. The scene, thanks to
the continued prowess of Lange and Sarah Paulson, was unexpectedly moving and a
lovely reprieve from the madness and ugliness that surrounds ASYLUM.
AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM returns January 2, in which
four episodes remain. While the aliens have returned with some significance,
the show still feels fairly idling. Hopefully, “The Coat Hanger’s” strides are
larger than we notice and the build towards a finale of note is real. Do the
birth announcements as we near the end of the season give you Déjà vu from
Murder House? And does anyone lock the doors at Briarcliff?
Next time, Sister Mary consorts with the devil in the woods,
and I can’t wait.
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